LIVE REVIEW: Three Acts of Love @ Live Theatre, Newcastle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Mark Savage

What do a cardiothoracic surgeon, an obsessed superfan and a neurodivergent runaway all have in common?

Heart. We all have one. And, as Dr McGill explains in her opening lecture, “believe it or not, whether you are a saint or a sinner, our hearts, when healthy, look pretty much the same as one another.” Physically, that is. This trio of short plays by Laura Lindow, Naomi Obeng and Vici Wreford-Sinnott explores matters of the heart in three very different acts of love. For love is complex, love is messy, love is vulnerable. And yet love connects, love warms, love Is life.

When McGill throws away her lecture notes and speaks from the heart, we encounter the woman behind the scalpel. When Clara’s idol topples from his pedestal, we see what a betrayed heart is capable of online. When the heart-warming simplicity of 21 year old Greta Stone’s desire to find her family demands a response from community worker Thea, we witness just how much capacity the exhausted woman’s heart has to be warmed.

Three acts of love, three different plays, all on the same stage on the same evening. A huge amount to take in in one go. And what holds these three short works together? The theme, yes, but so much more than that. The three actors –Rebecca Glendenning-Laycock, Laila Zaidi and returning to the North East, star of stage and screen Imogen Stubbs – take on roles in all three plays, taking it in turns to take the lead: that in itself brings a pleasing symmetry. Then there’s the haunting live music from the imposing decks at the back of the stage from local composer and musician Jayne Dent (Me Lost Me), which weaves the works together in an enchanting mix of soaring vocals and atmospheric electronics, subtly altering nature in each act to reflect the heart’s expression in a rhythmic heartbeat, religious chant and a community sing-song. 

The set is bare – a black box with layered plinths – and props few. This is all about the internal workings of the heart played out so beautifully before our eyes. There’s something for everyone, because the experience and demands and sacrifice of love are different for everyone – my plus one was never going to be able to hold back the tears for the vulnerable child in the care system (played so perfectly without feeling the need to over-exaggerate the neurodivergence because sometimes it’s subtle, right, almost invisible, and yet it’s there…thank you). The opening slide of an anatomical heart is raised again at the end, bringing us full circle.

One more word on the staging: the angled stage didn’t work for me. Throughout most of the performance, I felt ‘on the side’ of the focus. With no static stage furniture, more of a sense of connecting with the whole audience would fix this.

It’s a collaborative work: writers, actors, musicians and the creative team working together to create a significant whole out of three distinct parts. Love can unite us or divide us (when it goes wrong). ‘Three Acts of Love’ is a triumph of the heart.

Three Acts Of Love will be performed at Live Theatre until 16th December. Tickets are available here.

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